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Just imagine Charles Saatchi’s consternation as his ex-wife Nigella Lawson skilfully resumes her role as the nation’s ‘Domestic Goddess’.
Curvaceous Nigella, whom he did not want to lose, is smouldering again across the nation’s television screens in her new series The Taste. It is business as usual.
And even the high-spending, not-guilty Grillo sisters, the former assistants against whom Nigella gave evidence in court, are lining up behind her, telling the world glowingly that she “will always be loved”. No one, it must be said, has offered an affectionate Grillo-style testimony about Saatchi.
Even so, shouldn’t this be the end of the sordid marital saga which began with that extraordinary scene in a Mayfair restaurant last summer when Saatchi reached out and gripped his wife round the neck over lunch? The fact is, Saatchi may be enjoying the companionship and consolation of leggy divorcee Trinny Woodall, 49, the fashion adviser, but his mind continues to dwell agonisingly, resentfully, on Nigella.
In the PR battle for the approval and, perhaps, forgiveness of the public, the former advertising guru and image-polishing genius, has been completely out-manoeuvred by her.
This week, as Nigella relaxed on a holiday beach in the south of Spain apparently without a care in the world, he was bitterly revisiting issues that friends hoped were now in the past.
As he did so, Nigella was tweeting almost teasingly to her 450,000 followers on Twitter a picture from the beach with the caption: “And so first holiday lunch begins: rose wine, olives, calamari; sea in background. Muy contenta!’ Saatchi was anything but ‘muy contenta’. He was offering what he described as ‘clarification’ about certain matters in a statement that he volunteered to the Daily Mail.
This took the form of allegations involving, among other things, Nigella’s drug taking and the ultra-delicate matter of when their relationship started — they married in 2003, two years after the death from cancer of Nigella’s journalist husband and Saatchi’s Scrabble-playing friend, John Diamond. These new claims from Saatchi are barbed and potentially damaging to Nigella, and all are rebutted by her team.
Such is Saatchi’s apparent determination to harm his third ex-wife that, astonishingly, he is unconcerned that some of what he says contradicts the evidence he gave in court during the Grillo sisters’ trial.
For example, at Isleworth Crown Court on November 29, he testified: “I have never, never seen any evidence of Nigella taking any drugs whatsoever. I want to be helpful, but I genuinely have no real knowledge at all.”
In response to one question, he said: “Are you asking me whether I think Nigella truly was off her head? Not for a second. Over this whole period she was writing books very successfully and appearing on television shows very successfully.”
Now he says: “The truth is that she was taking illegal drugs secretly throughout the last few years of our marriage, often with her own child when she was far too young to even smoke or drink.’
Drug-taking, he goes on, “took place at an alarmingly frequent rate. That this practice seems to be considered acceptable behaviour in sections of the Press is deeply disturbing, as is the notion that you can teach your children that drugs are a justifiable way to make an unbearable situation bearable”.
This is a reference to Nigella’s evidence in which she said there had been a point in her life with Saatchi when she used cannabis “to deal with a summer of abuse”. In court Nigella admitted smoking cannabis in front of the children. Asked if she smoked with or in front of the children she replied: “I’m afraid I did.” She said she took cocaine on six occasions to help with the stress of coping with her late husband’s terminal cancer, and when subject to moments of Saatchi’s “intimate terrorism” — a phrase with special resonance for Saatchi, as we shall see.
One of the most damaging allegations in Saatchi’s new statement to the Mail concerns the start of his relationship with Nigella.
“Nigella and I began our relationship during the last six months of her husband John Diamond’s life, rather than after his death as she [Nigella] stated in court,’ he states, adding: “Looking back at that time, I very deeply regret that this betrayal of John occurred.” The timing of this “confession” has infuriated Nigella’s friends, who describe it as a “wicked attempt to smear her”.
One says: “Saatchi has been doing his worst for months to damage Nigella because he can’t bear it that she walked out on him. Nobody walks out on Saatchi, do they? Why can’t he just get on with his life and let her get on with hers?’
Nigella testified in court that the relationship began after her husband’s death. Saatchi and Diamond had met over gambling games of Scrabble above a restaurant in Knightsbridge and eventually the journalist brought Saatchi home to meet his wife.
At the time Saatchi was still married to his second wife Kay, mother of his only child Phoebe, 19. “John was ill for four years and Saatchi became a frequent visitor,” says one of Nigella’s circle. “Everyone knows Nigella and Saatchi had become close by the time John died, but it’s disgraceful of Saatchi to say what he has.”
So why is he stirring things up now, when he and Nigella are divorced, living new, separate lives, and the Grillo prosecution has been resolved?
After all, most men aged 70, especially one who is successful and worth around £135 million, would be happy to see the back of an unsavoury episode which exposed the seediness at the heart of his opulent lifestyle.
From a family point of view, it is impossible to exaggerate the pain and unhappiness which this continued state of war between him and Nigella is generating. Their children — Phoebe and Nigella’s children by Diamond, Mimi, 20, and Bruno, 17 — are the most obvious victims of the collateral damage.
Last August, Phoebe was put on the telephone by her father so she could read an emotional statement to the Mail, expressing her misery at having no contact with Nigella who had been her virtual mother since she was seven.
Sources close to the family say that Nigella and Phoebe did have some contact after the parting, but sadly that has stopped and a present sent for Phoebe’s birthday was politely returned.
On both sides, friends agree on one other point: what a sad situation it is for this degrading soap opera to come between three youngsters who grew up happily together from an early age.
Saatchi seemingly wants vengeance, though he doesn’t use the word. He claims he has “no alternative” to say what he’s saying because of the “inaccurate allegations” which Nigella “made up about me” during last month’s court hearing and in the media.
“I no longer feel the need to cover up for her any more,” he says.
According to friends, he is furious with Nigella for linking her drug-taking with that vague but devastating phrase “intimate terrorism”, implying that somehow it was his behaviour that drove her to drugs.
He told a friend: “She’s saying it was my fault she did drugs. It wasn’t.”
The friend adds: “He’s angry that he went into court first and spoke up for her, but when when it was her turn to give evidence she gave him a monstering.
“Charlie also cannot forgive Nigella for not speaking out on his behalf over the choking business. She let him hang.”
Astonishingly, there are now no fewer than five offered explanations for the lunchtime episode at Scott’s restaurant.
Explanation 1: When given a police caution for his action, Saatchi described the incident as nothing more than “a playful tiff”.
Explanation 2: He told the Grillo court: “I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her. I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus. Can we be clear? Was it about her drugs use? No.”
Explanation 3: Nigella, who had remained silent about the episode for five months — infuriating Saatchi — until stepping into the witness box at the Grillo trial, told the court that she had spotted a child in a pram and made a comment about her excitement at the prospect of being a grandmother, at which he grabbed her throat saying: “I’m the only person you should be concerned with.”
Explanation 4: Some of the pictures showed Saatchi looking in her nose, ostensibly for cocaine. Nigella told the court: “This was a story he (Saatchi) made up afterwards because I would not go back and clear his name.”
Explanation 5: The row was over whether Nigella’s daughter should go to university — Saatchi believed Mimi should continue her internship at The Economist magazine rather than leave to go to college.
How the two must now wish the Grillo sisters had never been prosecuted for fraud over their spending of nearly £700,000 on a Saatchi private company credit card. Acquitted by a jury, they promptly sold their story to a red-top newspaper.
For Saatchi and Nigella, the trial meant almost endless exposure and embarrassment as their lives were laid bare in excruciating detail. So whose idea was it to call in the police?
According to Saatchi it was Nigella’s decision, not his, to prosecute the Italian sisters who worked for her for more than a decade. “Had it been my choice there would have been no trial,’ he declares.
“There was no way for me to recoup the money they had spent, or the legal bills and the many weeks required to quantify the damage and build the case.”
Nigella’s supporters point out that this claim directly contradicts his statement to the police in January last year — it was read out in court — in which he says that “in light of [the Grillos’] behaviour it would be better to instigate proceedings against them”.
On July 23, after talking to his accountant, Saatchi was quoted as saying: “I then decided that matters had reached a point where there was no alternative but to report the matter to the police.”
Saatchi decided to release his latest fusillade against Nigella after she appeared on Good Morning America, seen as her first step towards regaining the public’s affection.
At the time he was meant to be relaxing with Trinny in the warmth and tranquility of the Caribbean.
So what are we to make of all this? Despite all that has been laid out nakedly before the world — and police are still considering the “implications” of her drugs admission in court — Nigella’s popularity seems to have come through remarkably unscathed.
Having declared war on her, however, Charles Saatchi is clearly refusing to end hostilities.
Most people think it is a war he cannot win. - Daily Mail